Former Montreal Expos and Los Angeles Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero announced his retirement on Saturday at age 38 in an article written by Hector Gomez of the Dominican Republic newspaper Listin Diario.
“I decided to announce my retirement due to my desire to spend more time with my family,” Guerrero said (in Spanish), “as well as because of the two operations that I’ve had on my right knee.”
The news comes as no surprise considering Guerrero has been unable to work his way back to big leagues since the 2011 season, when he played 145 games for the Baltimore Orioles. He went through the following offseason drawing minimal interest and was not on a roster when the season began. Guerrero finally accepted a minor league deal from the Toronto Blue Jays in May of 2012, but one month later was released from the contract.
Guerrero returned to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but again drew little interest from major league teams. He never reported to the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League after agreeing to play for them in April.
When Guerrero was at his best, he was not only among the game's most productive hitters, he was also one of the most fun players to watch on both sides of the ball. He was a free swinger at the plate that wasn't interested in learning the strike zone. His rare ability to hit baseballs hard even when the pitcher bounced them to the plate was a sight to see. Of course he was also one of the few who were even swinging at the those pitches.
Guerrero steps away with a career slash line of .318/.379/.553 in 9,059 plate appearances. Those numbers speak to his consistency over 16 seasons. One of his biggest career goals was to reach 500 home runs. He’ll end up with 449. No shame in that. He also contributed 477 doubles and swiped 181 bases.
His defense was also a lot of fun to watch, as Guerrero possessed one of the strongest right arms the game has ever seen. It reminded older fans of Roberto Clemente’s cannon, but for younger fans it immediately became the measuring stick by which other outfield arms were judged. During his younger years, he was one of the game's true five-tool players.
Vladimir Guerrero may not have had the ending to his career that he envisioned, but he won't soon be forgotten by those who had the pleasure of watching him. He'll be remembered as one of the most respected players of his era, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if five or so years down the road the folks at Cooperstown were calling his name.